Can you charge the PS3 wireless controller over regular USB?
Yes, you can charge it from any USB port.
Strange, I just tried it and the lights didn't start blinking. Does it have to be turned on?
It shouldn't. I did some quick Google searches as well and everything I found confirmed that it should charge on any USB port, and that you should see the lights blinking.
You should try different usb plugs from your computer. They do NOT all deliver the same amount of amperes so some are "more powerful" than others. Usually the one directly on the motherboard (on the back of the desktop) are more powerful
by extension it would seem that a mini-usb cell phone charger ought to work, too. i charge both my phone and my ps3 controllers from my computer, but haven't quite dared to plug my cell charger into my ps3 controller.
I'd be hard pressed to say it works from *any* USB port. I have never managed to charge it using a wall plug charger (like iPhone chargers) for example.
Some USBs are considered "powered" USBs. These will support the controller. Non powered will not. To say "any USB port" is inxorrect.